Chris Maddox; President, Camp Manager, Dean of MAD Week
It's getting cold outside. The Camp is locked up and the lights are off. We missed the 2020 Season due to COVID-19 and as we come into November, it's hard to imagine what we have to be thankful for. Our world is in upheaval over the coming Presidential Election, we still don’t know what is yet to come with Coronavirus, we have friends and family who are struggling like never before due to lay-offs, pay cuts or other forms of income loss. Churches and schools are struggling to remain open and keep their people safe. Amidst all of the chaos, amidst all the unfortunate circumstances, it feels difficult to find joy and to be thankful.
But we still have a great deal to be thankful for. Recently, our church did a sermon series on the Sermon on the Mount. I was blessed to be able to preach about the Beatitudes. One of the things I found most encouraging about this section of Jesus’ sermon is the blessings and rewards that are promised for those who are faithful and righteous and who desire to be like Him.
The greatest thing we have to be thankful for that no one in politics, no one in the community, no one at your job and certainly not Satan, can take from you is your assurance of Salvation. We are so blessed to have received God’s grace and love. And that is certainly something to be thankful for and to find joy about. But before we get too far, or make things too simplified, let's examine what “joyousness” is and “thankfulness” is.
“Joy” is often confused with “Happiness” which is an emotion that is experienced when the brain releases endorphins which gives you an excited feeling. This commonly happens when something good happens or when something satisfying occurs. But as we have all likely experienced, happiness can be fleeting. Moments where we have good news to share, or we have circumstances we are pleased with, unfortunately those moments don’t have a very long life. It is so important to understand that “happiness” is not the end all be all to measure your life by. If you don’t always feel happy, that doesn’t mean that your life is miserable. Happiness is fleeting. But “Joy” is more.
“Joy” is defined in pretty poor terminology as many emotions and “feelings” are. We have a very difficult time explaining the components that comprise our “feelings” because these emotions occur in the limbic part of our brain which is chemical rushes and endorphin floods or the reverse. Brian chemistry is not the subject of this article but it is a very interesting factor to study as you hope to understand how we, as God’s creation, function.
The reason we typically link “Joy” and “Happiness” is that the “feelings” are similar. But joy can be felt even when times are difficult. Joy can be present when circumstances are depressing. The reason “Joy” is able to stand up against unfortunate situations that challenge our emotions and even our faith, is that joy is better located with a “feeling” of contentment.
Contentment is all about attitude. It is finding peace in the storm, pease in the calm even. Joy is having peace about whatever this world throws at you. Joy is peaceful assurance that God is in control of what is out of control, He is all powerful especially when we are powerless, God is mighty and tends to us because we are weak, He loves us even when we feel unlovable and He keeps His promises which are numerous.
During this time, it is easy to begin worrying about how we are going to house, feed or clothe our family.
Matthew 6:31-34 says:
31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
When the Israelites came out of Egypt, God provided manna that fell from heaven, food they could be nourished from. He also prolonged the durability of their clothing so that the shoes on their feet and the clothes on their backs did not need replacing as children aged and grew. God provided what was needed. He didn’t provide mansions and swimming pools and large cars. But He took care of their needs in miraculous ways.
Everyone is worried about the health of their loved ones who might be affected by COVID-19, and that is a very real thing to be concerned for. It is natural to be concerned for the health and well being of those we care about. While it is human to worry, we have to remember what God has promised.
8 "The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed."
The Lord is with us, in the crisis, in the chaos to come, in the hardships that may or may not come to fruition. God is with us. He will not fail us or give up on us. This should give us bold confidence that helps us have peace and contentment and therefore JOY in these difficult times. God provides and God protects.
Let’s face it, it has been a difficult year. Over the past few years, organizations, businesses and even churches have set 2020 in their sights for big goals of successes and milestones. Sadly, many hopes were dashed due to the Coronavirus and the economic shutdown of our world. For DCSC, we had to make the unprecedented decision to cancel our camp season and wait out the storm. Churches were forced to go virtual which, let’s face it, isn’t always easy for the church volunteers, the preacher or the congregation. And certainly, church doesn’t feel the same when you’re just watching the computer screen. But what is there to do about it? Afterall, it is out of our control. But more than that, what do we possibly have to be thankful for in 2020?
2020 will go down in history as one of the worst years in human history. Without a doubt, people will be talking about it with their grandkids like our grandparents do the Great Depression or World War 2. But just because this year has had its struggles and downfalls, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t provide us things to be thankful for.
We could list all of the things that we as individuals had to sacrifice in order to muddle through. But what about the things we gained. Let’s list a few:
More time with family.
More time to complete the Honey-Do List
More time to pray and study God’s Word
Less opportunities for our world to influence our families
Less money spent dining out and more money spent supporting farmers
More communities rallying together to help the needy
Churches positioned to provide aid to the hurting
The Church learning that the Kingdom isn’t four walls and a roof
The list could continue on. So many intangible blessings. So much to be thankful for.
Yes, the pandemic has brought challenges and hardships. For some it has brought poverty, depression, death and has done irreparable harm. But even in all of the chaos and hurt, we have peace, and hope because of God’s love.
Isaiah 54:10 says:
10 "For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, But My lovingkindness will not be removed from you, And My covenant of peace will not be shaken," Says the LORD who has compassion on you.
No matter what happens, God’s love will not be taken away from us and his promise of peace will not be taken. No matter who wins our Presidential Election, no matter how many more restrictions are imposed or removed in regards to COVID-19, no matter how long children continue to do virtual school and no matter how long it takes for Jesus to return to call His children, God is faithful to His people.
This November, take time to reflect on what God has blessed you with this year and how God has blessed you through Coronavirus. God has been faithful to so many people in our world during this chaos. His faithfulness allows us to find peace and therefore joy, which is something we should be thankful for.
If you are willing to share how God has kept His promises to you we would love for you to share your blessings in the comments section below.